Lucerne: A Swiss Dreamscape

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If you close your eyes and think of Switzerland, Lucerne comes pretty close to the idyllic landscape of your dreams: Charming architecture centered around a sparkling lake, surrounded by the majestic Alps and herds of bell-jingling cows. It’s lovely. It’s also incredibly expensive, but hey, that’s Switzerland too. We took the train over last Saturday morning and, three hours later, found ourselves in Lucerne where we checked into our “budget” hotel (140 CHF!) and set off to explore.

We spent a fair bit of time admiring Europe’s oldest wooden bridge (pictured above), which is probably Lucerne’s best-known landmark, and then wandered in and out of the shops downtown before everything closed at 4pm (early, even by Geneva standards). We were expecting Lucerne to feel a bit like Bern since both cities are in the German part of the country, but it actually reminded us more of Geneva because of the way it’s perched on the banks of a swan-filled lake. We also visited the lion monument that memorializes the Swiss guards who were killed during the French revolution before ending the day with a fabulous dinner of Mexican food and margaritas at Pacifico (one of the more affordable places we found, and we spent more than 100 CHF, so come prepared).

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Sunday morning we grabbed breakfast at the Tibits veggie restaurant located above the train station and headed down to the docks to buy our “Golden Round Trip” tickets to the top of Mount Pilatus. Thank goodness we invested in SwissPasses when we moved to Geneva: The card gives you 50 percent off Swiss train fares and also worked on our Pilatus package, saving us more than 100 CHF. We spent the next couple of hours aboard a boat making its way down Lake Lucerne, basking in the sun and taking in the scenery, until we arrived at the stop for the cog railway that would transport us to the top of the mountain. Once we picked up our tickets, we had an hour to kill before our assigned train, so we lined up to buy Guillaume a giant sausage from an older gentleman grilling them in the main square. I sampled a couple of pieces and can hereby confirm it was delicious.

Before long, it was our turn to line up for the bright red cogwheel railway, which boasts being  the world’s steepest. We climbed into one of the posh, eight-passenger compartments and settled onto the couch-like benches for our ride to the top. I definitely recommend it: We had a great view from our window seats and really got a feel for the magnitude of the mountain as we inched our way up. Once we arrived, we climbed the stairways carved into the mountain to take in the sweeping views from the observation decks, literally above the clouds. We also spent some time watching the paragliders launch themselves from the top of the peak — please note the selfie stick present in the photo of the paraglider below — and were truly delighted by the guy playing the alphorn, who made all of my Swiss dreams come true.

Once we had our fill, we took the high-speed gondola part of the way down the mountain to try out the toboggan ride we had read about online. Warning: It had a very, very slow-moving line. When we finally got to the front of the queue, the staff had to shut the track down for a few minutes because someone had apparently gotten thrown off the course. That must have freaked me out a bit because I took the “BRAKE!!!” signs a little too seriously and unknowingly caused a bit of a back up. My apologies, girl who was stuck behind me!  After all that braking, I couldn’t figure out how to get back up to speed!

Hands down the coolest part though? The ride on the lift that pulls you and your toboggan back up the mountain. All of a sudden, we heard the tinkling of many bells and found ourselves overlooking a herd of Swiss cows grazing in a grassy meadow. It was really something, but alas, I could not capture it. Cameras were forbidden on the toboggan course and even punishable with a fine!

After my old lady finish, we decided to call it a day and took a gondola back down the mountain to take the bus back into Lucerne. We picked up dinner for the ride back to Geneva and boarded the 7pm train, quite satisfied with our latest Swiss adventure.

Enjoy the photos of Swiss paradise!

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